Inspired by ’60s soul and ’70s funk, the internationally touring New Mastersounds play grooving instrumental music designed to fill the dance floor.
“Rhythm is the most important thing,” New Mastersounds guitarist and former New Orleans resident Eddie Roberts said from his home in Denver. “For me, from a kid to now, the groove has always been going in my head.”
The New Mastersounds, which will make its Baton Rouge debut Wednesday at the Varsity Theatre, emerged from the ’80s and ’90s classic soul and funk scene in Leeds, England. Roberts was a jazz guitar student at Leeds College of Music, then the only college in Britain teaching jazz.
DJs in Leeds played funk and soul records at local clubs crowded with young people dancing to the vintage American music.
“For some strange reason, there ended up being this great scene there,” Roberts recalled. “It was really kicking off there, especially in the ’90s.”
Roberts discovered such funk artists as New Orleans’ The Meters and Lee Dorsey through the dance nights and DJs who made mix tapes for him.
“The DJs would constantly fill cassette tapes and say, ‘Hey, you should check this out,’” Roberts remembered.
The dance scene in Leeds was also a reaction to the drug-fueled acid house dance scene in Manchester.
“Instead of listening to this terrible acid house music, which you gotta take drugs to enjoy, we played music that sounds good when you’re sober,” Roberts said.
Roberts eventually formed a band to play a soul and funk club night. His band aspired to do what the best DJs did.
“The sign of a good DJ was he kept the dance floor going,” he said. “And then that became the sign of a decent band. If the band lost the dance floor, the club wouldn’t book you again. The New Mastersounds still have that idea of keeping the party going.”
Before Roberts moved to Denver in January, he lived for nearly two years in New Orleans, the city whose funk music is among his inspirations. Music was the reason Roberts moved to New Orleans. The band also recorded its new album, “Made for Pleasure,” there last year.
Roberts said living in the Crescent City was an amazing experience, and he may return.
“The nice thing about being a musician is you can always jump around, live in any city,” he said. “I don’t tend to rely on the city I live in for my work. The work is on the road and then I come home.”
On New Year’s Eve at the Joy Theater in New Orleans, Roberts will perform with the supergroup Foundation of Funk, featuring Zigaboo Modeliste and George Porter Jr. of The Meters.
“They’re incredible,” he said of Modeliste and Porter. “They’re my heroes, for sure.”
The funk that The Meters specialize in and classic soul continue their hold on Roberts.
“It’s very human music,” he said. “And there’s something organic about the sounds, the grittiness. It’s always resounded with me.”